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Annual mammograms starting at age 40 reduces deaths

CANCER DIGEST – March 2, 2024 – A new analysis of new data comparing three different screening strategies shows that annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing to age 79 offers the best screening outcomes in terms of lowering deaths from breast cancer with minimal risks.

The study was published Feb. 20, 2024 in the journal Radiology was conducted by Debra Monticciolo, MD of the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine in New Hampshire.

"The biggest takeaway point of our study," Dr. Monticciolo said in a press release, "is that annual screening beginning at 40 and continuing to at least age 79 gives the highest mortality reduction, the most cancer deaths averted, and the most years of life gained."

Dr. Monticciolo analyzed data from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET) 2023, which allowed statistical analysis of screening outcomes for various frequencies and starting ages in the US.

In 2009 the US Preventive Services Task Force (UPSTF) recommended mammography screening every other year beginning at age 50. That resulted in a nationwide decline in screening participation. 

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a coalition of comprehensive cancer centers in the US, then offered its recommendation for annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health. 

In 2023 the USPSTF updated its recommendations to include screening between ages 40 and 74 every other year.

In her analysis Dr. Monticciolo and colleagues compared the benefits of screening, including reductions in death, increased life years, breast cancer deaths averted, along with the risks of recalls for additional mammograms and unnecessary biopsies for the three screening strategies.

The results showed that the UPSTF biennial screening women between 50 and 74 reduced mortality by 25.4 percent, while biennial screening between 40 and 74 resulted in a reduction in breast cancer deaths by 30 percent. For the annual screening between 40 and 79 years strategy, the data showed a reduction in deaths of 41.7 percent.

In addition, the annual screening between 40 and 79 showed the lowest rate of false positives mammograms at 6.5 percent and the chance of having a negative biopsy was less than 1 percent (.88 percent) compared to the other screening scenarios.

Dr. Monticciolo said she hopes this study will add weight to the annual screening strategy starting at age 40 as the best way to detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer early, when it is most curable.

Source: Radiological Society of North America press release.


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